My Daughter After The Car Accident

photo-3 copy 4No one was hurt, but my kids and ex-wife were in a car accident today. Some guy with no brakes or insurance rear-ended them and jacked the car up pretty good. The charming police officers were taking their charming time conducting interviews with all the people in the 4 car pile-up, so my ex called to see if I could come get the kids. When I tried to drop them off, my daughter’s voice started breaking up as she asked to go home with me.

The cracks in her voice chopped away my understanding of who I usually call “I” as I, a bigger kind of I, identified with her delayed and partial attempts at processing what just happened. It didn’t make sense. There was something in between those cracks in her voice that wanted to speak. What was it? “Yes, of course you can come to daddy’s,” someone said. It was me.

*

“Daddy?” It was my son when he was 5-years-old. “Where do dead people go?”
“I don’t know,” I told him, “but I bet it’s wonderful and lucky.”
“I think they go nowhere,” he replied, “but I don’t know where nowhere is.”

*

“It came out of,” [jagged gasping for breath] “nowhere,” she wailed into my neck, “and and and,” [more jagged gasping] “I was so scared,” [jagged gasping] “because I thought I was d-d-dead.” I squeezed her tighter and let her cry as it occurred to me that all this crying and gasping was the way death itself escaped the body, slipping out between broken syllables and sobbed exhalations.

*

How do any of us ever survive a single day?

*

Over frozen yogurt she eased back into her unquestioned assumption that she would continue to exist from moment to moment. She smiled and laughed and licked her spoon. But I, imagining what might have been and worse, just focused on seeing her and hearing her, so glad she merely was, so spooked by her maybe being nowhere. I shut my mouth up tight and managed to muster half-smiles at her silly girl antics, not wanting her to see the death escaping between my grit teeth and the gasps I permitted myself only when she looked away.

____________

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